Latest update: 09/06/2009 12:17 +0300

CYPRUS 2009 Forces Re-Writing Of GSSE History Books

NICOSIA, 9 June 2009 - With the XIII Games of the Small States of Europe well and truly over, and with all those involved trying to cope with the syndrome of post-Games blues, the GSSE historians will have to get to work.

CYPRUS 2009 provided an astonishing array of breakthroughs--and not just in the fields play.

On the courts and tracks, Cyprus completely dominated the GSSE, setting a number of records that will be impossible to surpass in the future--especially once Montenegro joins the GSSE movement and the family grows from eight to nine states.

With a day to spare in the Games, Cyprus broke the record of most medals ever won by a country. It was Elena Papazoglou Ioannou's silver in the Laser-Radial Class of Sailing that came in as the 98th medal for Cyprus in these Games and consigned to history the record of 97 medals held by Iceland since the 1997 Games.

In the process of amassing an incredible 139 medals (of which 59 gold, 47 silver and 33 bronze), Cyprus also clinched its own landmarks: Its 800th medal in the history of the Games, with shooter Marilena Constatinou's silver in the Women's Air Rifle, and it's 900th, with the Judo team's gold in the Men's Team Event.

But other athletes also left their mark on these Games and earned their own golden pages in the history books of the GSSE.

Thirty-six-year-old runner Andri Shialou, who lit the altar at the Opening Ceremony of the XIII GSSE, completed a glittering career with gold medals in the 400m and 400m Hurdles. A career that spans over 20 years and includes the III GSSE of 1989 and the XIII GSSE of 2009--plus all those in-between.

Shialou, a mother of two, also received the European Fair Play Movement Individual Award of this year's Games.

Despite the almost total domination of Cyprus, Luxembourg also provided their own star of the XIII GSSE.

Seventeen-year-old Raphael Stacchiotti was dubbed the 'Michael Phelps' of the GSSE, when he won seven gold medals at the Limassol Swimming Pool. He would have gone for eight, but was resigned to a single silver, were it not for Iceland's Arni Mar Arnason who became the only man to beat Stacchiotti (in the 50m Freestyle). Yet another two gold could have come his way had Luxembourg entered the relay races.

Stacchiotti was the recipient of the World Fair Play Movement Award at these GSSE.

In Men's Volleyball, Panos Eracleous also contributed his own little bit of GSSE history. Captaining the Cyprus team to yet another gold, his own personal collection grew to nine gold medals in as many appearances at the GSSE. Eracleous, 34, first took part in the GSSE in 1991, but missed out on the 2001 Games because of University obligations.

Loukia Trikomiti of Cyprus also emerged a multimedallist of the XIII GSSE, with four gold and a silver medal in Rhythmic Gymnastics. The 19-year-old gymnast's single defeat came from her 16-year-old sister, Chrystalleni, in the final of the Ribbon.

But it was not only Cyprus that set new personal bests at these GSSE. Both Iceland and Luxembourg got their best ever results in the history of the GSSE: Although Iceland secured 81 medals and fell short of its performance of 97 from the 1997 Games in Reykjavik, this has been the Nordic nation’s best yield ever away from home. And Luxembourg’s 26 gold bettered the Grand Duchy’s previous best of 24 from the 1997 Games.

With the three strongest teams dominating the Games so thoroughly this year, little was left for the remaining five countries and all of them fell below par in their collection of gold medals—although they all did well in the totals. For Malta, especially, this year’s collection of just three gold was the lowest since 1995 in Luxembourg. Andorra, which departed Cyprus with a single gold (by Laura Salle Lopez in the Women’s -64kg category of Judo) had not fallen so low since 1993 in Malta.

Off the fields of play, the Organisers of the XIII GSSE set the bar very high, measured against past editions, but also against the III Games of 1989, when the GSSE were last held here.

And they came through with a brilliant performance--considering that the GSSE have grown out of all proportion: A total of 3,291 accreditations were issued for the six-day event, including a record-breaking 843 athletes who took part in 131 disciplines of twelve sports. Compare this to the 222 athletes of the I Games, 24 years ago.

Media coverage also tested the organisers, who had to provide for 103 foreign plus numerous local journalists--numbers never seen before at Games of the Small States of Europe. At the same time, a huge TV production came through, with live feed of more than 40 hours and two daily highlights roundups provided for free to all participating countries via satellite.

And this website, despite any unavoidable (or even avoidable) shortcomings, provided access to the Games for all the world, with visitors pouring in from 131 countries from every tiny corner of the world. Games time, the official website of the XIII GSSE had 112,896 visits (31% from inside Cyprus and 69% from abroad) and 877,888 pageviews with an average time of seven minutes on the site.

A total of more than 1300 free of rights action photos of the twelve sports and of parallel events were distributed through the website, in addition to 265 news articles in Greek and 215 in English. Video clips with the highlights of each day were available nightly online.

Supporting the whole organisational structure were 739 brilliant volunteers in a mobilisation never before seen in Cyprus.

With such massive numbers to cope with, as CYPRUS 2009 wraps up, the organisers of the XIV Games of the Small States of Europe, Liechtenstein 2011, now have two extremely tough years ahead of them to organise the next edition of what has rightly been hailed as the 'mini Olympics'.

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